Do you feel your travel photography needs an upgrade? Look no further, here are 15+ of the most actionable tips you’ll find around to take your travel shots to the next level!
You’ll find a lot of information around on how to improve your travel photography technique for more “wow!” pictures. Always use a tripod, use this or that lens for this or that location etc. However, not even the best skills will cut it unless the subject, the location or the light is worth it.
And I tell you, finding the perfect shot requires not only patience but also some inspiration and skill.
If inspiration is what you are after today, have a look at our post on alternative ways to inspire your travel photography.
After shooting in endless locations, we know that scouting for the best travel pics is not easy. This is why we want to share with you guys some of the secrets we have learned the hard way.
Every destination is different and some of the tips here will probably make more sense in cities rather than in the wild or on land rather than underwater. However, I guarantee that by the time you read the last one of them, you’ll see epic photography opportunities everywhere you go.
The coolest thing is, most of our tips work regardless of the camera you have. A smartphone? No problem! A point and shoot? Awesome! A mirrorless? Great! A DSLR? Perfect!
So let’s start training your photographer’s eye!
- Tip 1 – Work on your inspiration beforehand
- Tip 2 – Travel light
- Tip 3 – Be patient, do not rush it
- Tip 4 – Trust your taxi driver
- Tip 5 – Get lost, on purpose
- Tip 6 – Take a photo tour, learn from the best
- Tip 7 – The art of people watching
- Tip 8 – Look up, down, left and right
- Tip 9 – Different light, another opportunity
- Tip 10 – Cloudy? Bad weather? Go out
- Tip 11 – From another angle
- Tip 12 – Keep the composition simple
- Tip 13 – Make it fun
- Tip 14 – Get out of your photo comfort-zone
- Tip 15 – Let your pictures tell the story
- Bonus Tip – Think before snapping that shot
- Yet Another Bonus Tip – Practice, practice, practice
Tip 1 – Work on your inspiration beforehand
One of the most challenging things to do for your travel photography when in an unfamiliar place is to get your inspiration rolling.
You just walk around with your camera and nothing seems appealing enough to bring that viewfinder to your face.
The bad news is, inspiration is not an exact science, as I’m sure you already know. Here is the good news though, you can actually help the process.
Any search engine, Pinterest, Instagram, 500px, Flickr account or even your good old paper travel guide can help. All of them will show you what others have seen and photographed literally thousands of times.
Need more inspirational tips? Read our 7 Alternative Ways To Inspire Your Travel Photography.
How else could we have come across the bend of the Saar river during our road trip around southern Germany?
Tip 2 – Travel light
Less is more when it comes to walking around trying to spot that perfect location or opportunity. In general, the more mobile you are, the better for your travel photography.
Do not obsess about equipment either. Yes, a DSLR with a professional-grade lens and a tripod will be the best choice for landscape or nature pictures but it will slow you down if what you’re looking for is some more candid people shots.
Tip 3 – Be patient, do not rush it
Let’s say you are all set for that trip to France that you always wanted to take and are naturally planning to visit Paris.
If you visit for the first time, you will want to capture the Eiffel Tower or the Sacré-Coeur. Or even the Wall of Love.
Clichés? Oh yes.
But nothing to be embarrassed about, we have all been there. After all, they are tourist attractions for a reason.
Just be patient, grab a coffee at one of the street vendors around and take your time, wander around and play with the composition or the angle (more on that later).
Tip 4 – Trust your taxi driver
As mere visitors, we can all learn lots from the locals we meet on the way.
Searching for an authentic restaurant in Barcelona? Just ask the taxi driver, they know their cheap eats.
Looking at visiting the busiest night market in Bangkok? Ask the tuk-tuk driver, he surely can advise.
What about a not-so-well-known location in the neighbourhood while in Venice, Italy? Go ask that gondolier.
Tip 5 – Get lost, on purpose
Right, I get it.
The language barrier is sometimes too much of an issue or today you don’t feel comfortable asking around. What about taking your camera for a casual stroll and see what happens?
Have a quick look at your guide for directions, pack some water and snacks and start your little adventure for the day.
Tip 6 – Take a photo tour, learn from the best
If you do not fancy solo travel or are short on time, then this is an option worth exploring.
Regardless of how photography savvy you are (or think you are), you can always learn a couple of new things in one of these tours. When it comes to creativity, it never hurts to have a few more tricks up your sleeve.
Tip 7 – The art of people watching
Similar to the light, the flow of people is different depending on the time of the day or the season.
Sundays are perfect for people photography at Plaza de Armas in Cuzco (Peru), when local families stroll around. Early mornings are just what you need for a picture of the Pyramide du Louvre, Paris (France) without anyone around. And mostly every time is best for people watching in Brick Lane (London), with astounding backdrops.
Tip 8 – Look up, down, left and right
Like emergency exits on a plane, your best travel photography opportunity can be behind you or even down at your feet.
It is easy to get carried away with the excitement of the moment when visiting somewhere new. But look around, take your time and enjoy all little details, even if that means turning your head around.
Tip 9 – Different light, another opportunity
Light –together with composition– is to photography what location is to real estate.
You’ll be surprised at how much impact different light conditions can have on your pictures.
While you’ll find brighter highlights and shallower shadows during the peak hours of the day, you’ll have warmer colours and softer light around sunset and sunrise.
Also, don’t forget night photography is a thing too. Even if quite tricky technically speaking. Check out our eerie night picture in Erice, Sicily, that seems taken directly from a mystery novel.
Make the Golden Hour or the lesser-known Blue Hour work for you. Many apps will help you plan ahead, we love The Photographer’s Ephemeris.
Tip 10 – Cloudy? Bad weather? Go out
We run indoors when it rains, it’s in our nature.
And it’s actually your first logical reaction when carrying your favourite non-waterproof camera.
But what if I tell you your pictures will look more dramatic under thundery clouds just before it starts pouring?
If a better-exposed shot is not enough for you to stop worrying, always carry a plastic ziplock bag, a makeshift cover for your camera at a moments notice.
Tip 11 – From another angle
Don’t always rely on what you see at eye level.
If you’re looking at photographing people, you might want to try and shoot from your hip level for a more flattering perspective.
Get closer to the model and point from a high angle if what you’re looking at is a more comical look.
Or point your camera upwards from a lower position or tilt it for a more dynamic look.
Tip 12 – Keep the composition simple
Who said minimalism and travel photography do not go together?
If you think minimalist compositions are dull, think twice. You can take advantage of interesting textures, strong lines, hard contrasts and bright colours to capture stunning creative shots.
To plan for a simple composition will also challenge your observation skills and help you focus on the detail. That little shop sign of the old bakery in Positano (Italy) or the colours on the hot air balloon getting ready for an early morning flight in Arizona, USA, could produce a stunning and unexpected photo.
Tip 13 – Make it fun
Scouting around for travel photography locations should be fun. Be creative and make it a game.
Try speed photography, with a twist. In any city with an underground system go take a picture at every subway station on your route as soon as the doors open, you’ll be surprised at the results! Many subway stations are works of art in their own right, as the subway system in Moscow, Russia.
Do you enjoy street art? Go and challenge yourself, let’s see how many pieces you can spot in a set time!
Tip 14 – Get out of your photo comfort-zone
Amateur or professional, every type of photographer in us feels more comfortable with one or two speciality subjects, and that’s alright. Nature landscape, architecture, people portraiture, underwater photography, etc.
But venturing out of your comfort zone is something you should do at least once in a while. Is nature landscape photography your thing? Be adventurous and plan for some people portraiture or even some macro photography.
Tip 15 – Let your pictures tell the story
When travelling with a camera –ANY camera– use it to keep a photo diary of your experiences.
How can I do it, I hear you say?
Every story has a protagonist (that red vintage car in front of a church in Italy, that mango seller around the corner in Cuba, etc.
See where I am going?
Try to compose your picture around this subject and use leading lines, shallow depth of field, framing or any other technique to draw the attention of the viewer to it.
Bonus Tip – Think before snapping that shot
All the tips here will work for you, guaranteed! On your next trip, you’ll be snapping away like never before! 10, 20,..100 shots every day! You’ll have some great pictures to be proud of!
But slow down, the last thing you want to do when back home is to have to dig your golden nuggets out of thousands of dull shots.
Yet Another Bonus Tip – Practice, practice, practice
This one is a no-brainer.
To see photo opportunities everywhere, you will have to train your eye. And there is no better way than to go out there and practice.
Do you have any other tip you care to share with us? Leave us a comment, we would love to hear from you!
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Really nice to read, all true!
Thank you Lucas!
Thank you for this interesting blog post. Our team travel a lot to capture various product pictures (when there is no lockdown) and several of your tips will be very useful for us 🙂 We’ll try to apply them the best we can! Cheers
Hi Lara, would be great to see how you guys use these tips on your product pictures. Do not forget to share some pics with us! By the way, cool bags you’ve got over there ?
Thanks for the information about photography. I am searching for this from a long time.
You’re welcome Harvey. Happy to help!
Love the tip about getting lost on purpose. My favorite thing to do when in a new city is to grab a business card from my hotel, and set off walking. I’ll go until I’m too tired, jump in a taxi and head back to the hotel.
Got some great ideas from this. I’ve never thought of using my camera to take a photo diary before, even though when you say it like that it seems obvious – doh! Going to try that on my next trip and see how I get on and also look for things to build the story around – never thought about that either. Thanks very much 🙂
Thanks for the tips, great ideas.
What a great article, David! Definitely worth reading, keep up the good work. Thanks to the inspiration, we created a photography guide for sustainable travelers. Do you mind having a look at it?